Thursday, 22 May 2014

The National Debt Clock

The following Link shows the National (US) Debt Clock in action...

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Coordinates: 40°45′23″N 73°59′02″W / 40.756329°N 73.983921°W / 40.756329; -73.983921
Photo of the National Debt Clock on September 15, 2009, at which time it reads approximately 11.8 trillion USD in national debt
The National Debt Clock on September 15, 2009, at which time it read approximately 11.8 trillion USD in national debt
The National Debt Clock is a billboard-sized running total display which constantly updates to show the current United States gross national debt and each American family's share of the debt. It is currently installed on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan, New York City.
The idea for the clock came from New York real estate developer Seymour Durst, who wanted to highlight the rising national debt. In 1989, he sponsored the installation of the first clock, which was originally placed on Sixth Avenue—between 42nd Street and 43rd Street—one block away Times Square. At the time, the national debt remained under $3 trillion but was rising. The clock was temporarily switched off from 2000 to 2002 due to the debt actually falling during that period.
In 2004, the original clock was dismantled and replaced by the current clock at the new location one block away. In 2008, the U.S. national debt exceeded $10 trillion for the first time, leading to press reports that the clock had run out of digits.[1][2][3][4]
The original clock outlived Seymour, who died in 1995, with Seymour's son Douglas taking over responsibility for the clock through the Durst Organization. As of September 2009, Douglas Durst's cousin Jonathan "Jody" Durst, with whom he currently shares a co-presidency of the company, is in the process of taking over the day-to-day operations as president. In an interview with The New York Times, Jonathan Durst has said that maintenance of the clock is planned "for years to come."[5]


Clock concept[edit]

Invented and sponsored by New York real estate developer Seymour Durst, the National Debt Clock was installed in 1989.[6] After Seymour's death in 1995, his son Douglas Durst became president of the Durst Organization which owns and maintains the clock.[7][8][9]
Douglas Durst has been quoted as saying that the clock represents a non-partisan effort; he has further explained the motivation behind the project in terms of intergenerational equity: "We're a family business. We think generationally, and we don't want to see the next generation crippled by this burden."[10]
According to Douglas Durst, his father had been toying with the basic idea of drawing attention to the growing national debt since at least 1980, when during the holiday season he sent cards that said "Happy New Year. Your share of the national debt is $35,000" to senators and congressmen.[11] In the early eighties, when Durst first developed the idea of a constantly updated clock, the technology required to implement the project was not yet available.[10]

First clock[edit]

Photo of the first National Debt Clock at the original location near Times Square
The first clock at the original location near Times Square (2002)
With the national debt at 2.7 trillion dollars, the original 11 by 26 feet (3.4 m × 7.9 m) clock was constructed in 1989 at a cost of $100,000.[7] It was mounted a block from Times Square, on a Durst building at Sixth Avenue near 42nd Street, facing the north side of 42nd Street and Bryant Park across the intersection. Built by the New York sign company Artkraft Strauss, the clock featured a dot-based segment display emulating the then-typical character resolution of 5x7. Similar to the second clock, the updating mechanism was such that the display was set to the estimated speed of debt growth (odometer-style) and adjusted weekly according to the latest numbers published by the United States Treasury.[7][9][12] Up until the week before his death, Seymour Durst himself adjusted the tally via modem.[7] Since his passing, Artkraft Strauss has been keeping the figures current.[7]
In 2000, due to an improving debt situation, the clock started to run backward.[8] With the original purpose of the clock being to highlight the rising debt and the reverse giving a mixed message, and with the display not being designed to properly run backward, the clock was unplugged and covered with a red, white and blue curtain in September 2000, with the national debt standing at roughly 5.7 trillion dollars.[10] The clock was not dismantled, however, and in July 2002 the curtain was raised and the clock once again picked up tracking a rising debt, starting at 6.1 trillion dollars.[13]

Second clock[edit]

In 2004, the original clock was moved from its location near 42nd Street; the building has since made way for One Bryant Park. An updated model, which can run backward, was installed one block away on a Durst building at 1133 Avenue of the Americas (more commonly known as 1133 Sixth Avenue).[10][14] It is mounted on the side wall of the building which faces W. 44th Street. The new clock is outfitted with a brighter seven-segment display with multiple LEDs per segment, allowing the numbers to be read more easily.
In the midst of extensive media attention during the financial crisis beginning in 2007, some news reports mentioned the National Debt Clock, highlighting the fact that its display had run out of digits when the U.S. gross federal debt rose above $10 trillion on September 30, 2008.[1][2][3][4]
An overhaul or complete replacement adding two more digits to the clock's display is currently being planned.[12][15][16]

Similar projects[edit]

Photo of the German national debt clock at the Berlin headquarters of taxpayer watchdog group Bund der Steuerzahler
German national debt clock at the Berlin headquarters of taxpayer watchdog group Bund der Steuerzahler
The idea of conveying a message through a periodically updated clock found an earlier expression in the Doomsday Clock. However, the innovation of the National Debt Clock was to feature a constantly running counter; it has since inspired similar projects elsewhere, both in the United States and further afield.[7][17] Various tracking counters of national debt are also kept online.[18]
The National Debt Clock has also been credited as the inspiration behind other running totalisers, for example an AMD campaign employing an electronic billboard; instead of a debt, it tracked the supposed additional cost of using a rival chip.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jump up to: a b "National Debt Clock runs out of digits". London: October 9, 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-10. 
  2. ^ Jump up to: a b "The Debt to the Penny and Who Holds It — Daily History Search Application". TreasuryDirect. September 30, 2008. Retrieved September 15, 2009. 
  3. ^ Jump up to: a b "Debt clock can't keep up (CNN video)". October 4, 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-05. 
  4. ^ Jump up to: a b "US debt clock runs out of digits". BBC News. October 9, 2008. 
  5. Jump up ^ Marino, Vivian (September 11, 2009). "Square Feet | The 30-Minute Interview: Jonathan Durst". The New York Times. Retrieved September 15, 2009. 
  6. Jump up ^ Daniels, Lee A. (November 8, 1991). "Chronicle". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-06. 
  7. ^ Jump up to: a b c d e f Toy, Vivian S. (May 28, 1995). "The Clockmaker Died, but Not the Debt". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-06. 
  8. ^ Jump up to: a b "National Debt Clock stops, despite trillions of dollars of red ink". CNN, AP, Reuters (hosted on Internet Archive's Wayback Machine). September 7, 2000. Archived from the original on 2008-01-29. Retrieved 2008-10-05. 
  9. ^ Jump up to: a b Upham, Ben (May 14, 2000). "NEIGHBORHOOD REPORT: TIMES SQUARE; Debt Clock, Calculating Since '89, Is Retiring Before the Debt Does". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-05. 
  10. ^ Jump up to: a b c d "US debt clock running out of time, space". China Daily / AFP. 2006-03-30. Retrieved 2008-10-05. 
  11. Jump up ^ Koh, Eun Lee (August 13, 2000). "FOLLOWING UP; Time's Hands Go Back On National Debt Clock". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-06. 
  12. ^ Jump up to: a b Rubinstein, Dana (October 6, 2008). "Durst To Add Extra Trillion Dollar Digit to National Debt Clock". Retrieved 2008-10-08. 
  13. Jump up ^ Stevenson, Robert W. (July 13, 2002). "White House Says It Expects Deficit to Hit $165 Billion". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-06. 
  14. Jump up ^ Haberman, Clyde (March 24, 2006). "We Will Bury You, in Debt". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-06. 
  15. Jump up ^ Boniello, Kathianne (October 5, 2008). "'1' Big Tick is due for Debt Clock". Retrieved 2008-10-08. 
  16. Jump up ^ "U.S. debt too big for National Debt Clock (MSNBC video)". NBC Nightly News. October 7, 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-08. 
  17. Jump up ^ "Debt Clock Moves Next Door to Government". Deutsche Welle. June 18, 2004. Retrieved 2008-10-05. 
  18. Jump up ^ Examples for online debt tracking resources include, and others, see External links below.
  19. Jump up ^ Hesseldahl, Arik (May 3, 2006). "AMD Sticks It to Intel—Again". Retrieved October 27, 2009. 
  20. Jump up ^ "indieWIRE INTERVIEW: James Scurlock, director of "Maxed Out"". indieWIRE. March 11, 2007. Retrieved 2008-10-10. 

External links

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Students are taking on old economics – and winning

Photo credit:   Alex Proimos
MAY 19, 2014 // BY: ALICE MARTIN/ New EConomics foundation 

This is getting exciting.  With student groups across 30 countries now calling for change, it’s clear the campaign to reform university economics curriculums is reaching new heights.
Just last month the Executive Director of Financial Stability at the Bank of England, Andy Haldane, publically backed the students’ argument, agreeing it is high time “to rethink some of the basic building blocks of economics.” He added to their already sizeable list of high profile supporters, including economist of the day Thomas Piketty and renowned Cambridge scholar, Ha-Joon Chang.
What are they asking for?
The student movement is objecting to the dominance of neoclassical models of economics taught by the vast majority of university economics departments across the world: models that continue to promote profit-led decision making despite international financial instability and widening inequality.
Rather than being taught to regurgitate old theories, the student movement is calling for degrees that analyse and evaluate economic systems, decisions and models in a real world context. They object to the surrendering of political, social and environmental systems to financial markets, and want to study instead an economics that fulfils its real responsibility – answering how the world’s population can live well without further draining the planet’s resources.
The broader syllabus the students are proposing would address the major events that have shaped our current economic outlook, the most obvious of which being the 2008 financial crisis.  With the impact of the crisis still sending tremors through the economic stability of nations andhouseholds alike, it is crucial that rigourous, academic research into its causes is fostered. For this the students recognise a ‘pluralist’ approach is needed. This means a range of theories and schools of thought would be studied, instead of continuing the one theory fits all approach.
65 student groups, including those based in Oxford University and LSE here in the UK, and Jadavpur University in West Bengal, India, to name just three, have signed this open letter outlining their shared demands.
Why is this important for the rest of us?
Since the financial crash economics itself has been in crisis. With politicians pulling in different directions to try and rationalise what happened, most people have been left with no option but to soldier on with their own personal financial crises. MPs have pushed through austerity as a solution to the UKs national financial woes, despite the approach being based onwholly false economic grounds. And their damaging slight of hand has worked. Why? Because with bamboozling stock market figures and complicated national debt calculations, most people feel they have to leave economics to the ‘experts’.
But what happens when it turns out the experts don’t have all the answers? Just as we saw recently with the Bank of England’s welcome exposé onhow the modern monetary system works, economics is by no means a settled science.
This is why it’s so important that those embarking on degrees in economics are taught how to challenge the models and theories that aren’t working. And the message the students are sending out is that under the current curriculum, they are not able to do so.
Universities are listening
The University of Manchester have chosen not to renew the contract of a lecturer who set up an out-of-hours class ‘Bubbles Panics and Crashes’ to broaden the undergraduate syllabus. Despite this setback for the movement, other universities are starting to listen to the students’ calls. Kingston University last week released a statement in support of their demands “for genuine reform of economics education”. With other universities expected to follow suit, the student led action has the potential to make a profound change. A ripple effect through the financial industries is perhaps too far off to get excited about, but a reformed curriculum is certainly a bold first step.
For those keen to find out more about what changes are being proposed, the UK based student group Rethinking Economics are planning a public conference in London this June.  And the International Student Initiative for Pluralism in Economics (ISIPE) website has full details of the groups, and supporters involved. 

Friday, 16 May 2014

Let’s take Piketty proposal for global wealth tax seriously

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Karsten Moran/The New York Times
Attendees at a recent speech given by Thomas Piketty picked up copies of the French economist’s book Capital in the Twenty-First Century at the City University of New York.

I’ve complained about Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century, and I still think it’s been vastly overpraised, but I don’t go along with every criticism others have made. As a matter of fact, I think one idea that’s been roundly dismissed by fans and critics alike deserves to be taken more seriously: the proposal for a global wealth tax.
From the left, James Galbraith of the University of Texas in Austin says the idea is futile: “Why spend an entire chapter on it — unless perhaps to incite the naive?” Daniel Shuchman in The Wall Street Journal says it ignores the sources of prosperity: “He breezily assures us that none of this would reduce economic growth, productivity, entrepreneurship or innovation.” Tim Worstall at Forbes says it’s a logical impossibility. “Mr. Piketty’s focus on soaking the rich smacks of socialist ideology, not scholarship,” says The Economist.
Piketty acknowledges that the tax is utopian and, as in the rest of book, he spends no time interrogating his big conclusions or trying to improve them. But if you unpack the idea a little, it starts to look better. When it comes to feasibility, you might even claim that policy is moving this way.
On equity and efficiency grounds, it makes sense to tax wealth. The practicalities, though, are daunting. Flight to low-tax jurisdictions — the rationale for making a wealth tax global — is only one of many difficulties. To levy a tax each year, you’d need an annual accounting of wealth, which isn’t easy to do, and you’d have to contend with the fact that wealth doesn’t always produce a flow of income that can be used to pay what’s owed.
The best way to tax wealth is to tax capital income as it’s realized and, once a lifetime, tax inheritance. Tax authorities generally pay lip service to this concept, but they execute it badly.
In America, capital gains are taxed when realized, though at a preferential rate. More important, as Warren Buffett could tell you, investments can soar in value for decades without gains ever being realized or tax ever coming due. Incredibly, when those assets are passed to heirs, their value gets a new base — and the unrealized gains simply disappear for capital gains tax purposes. True, the estate is then supposedly taxed in its own right, but the wealthy can find ways around that, too. The result is that enormous accumulations of income — that is, wealth — can escape tax altogether.
What’s needed is moderate but effective taxation of capital income combined with moderate but effective taxation of inheritance, so that unrealized gains are brought back into the tax base, either during the course of an investor’s life or at death. In the case of the very rich, attuned as they are to tax-avoidance opportunities, effectiveness does require international co-operation. But here’s the thing: That part is already happening.
Bear in mind that the U.S. taxes its citizens wherever they live and work in the world. In that sense, the U.S. already collects a global income tax. In addition, in recent years, the U.S. authorities have been waging war on foreign tax shelters and bank-secrecy laws. In some ways, this campaign has gone too far: The rules have become burdensome for ordinary taxpayers who have lived or worked abroad. (Many Americans complain that foreign banks and financial companies no longer want them as clients — too much record-keeping and reporting.) What’s interesting, though, is just how far foreign jurisdictions have gone in accommodating U.S. demands for compliance with U.S. standards.
Plutocrats are mobile and can live and work where they please. They can hire teams of lawyers to advise them on domicile, residence, citizenship and any of a thousand factors that will affect their tax liabilities. Co-operation among tax authorities in closing loopholes is therefore necessary. But it’s happening and is likely to go further.
Piketty’s nightmare of rule by oligarchs rests partly on his assumption that international tax competition will drive capital taxes to zero. In fact, greater cooperation among governments is already helping to ensure that the very rich pay their taxes. Combine this with reform at the national level to recapture unrealized capital gains for tax purposes, and you could tax global wealth without ever needing a “global wealth tax.”
Not quite as momentous as Piketty’s overblown “central contradiction of capitalism” — but on taxing wealth, he has a point.
Clive Crook is a Bloomberg View columnist and a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board. Follow him on Twitter at @clive_crook.


Five dynamic pricing issues retailers should consider

by Patricio Robles 25 January 2013 14:01     Source Ref Econcultancy Blog
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From social media sentiment analysis to digital ad buying, faster is increasingly seen as better, or at least necessary.
So it's no surprise that the ability to generate lots of data and analyze it rapidly is changing the way products and services are sold.
Last year, Orbitz raised eyebrows when it was revealed that the online travel site rearranges the order of hotel search results, displaying more expensive lodging options to users it had reason to believe, based on data analysis, were more likely to be willing to pay a premium.
In the retail space, a similar data-driven approach to product pricing is increasingly being employed. Amazon is perhaps the best and most widely-known user of dynamic pricing, where the prices of products changes regularly over short intervals, if not in real-time. But as detailed by AdAge's Kate Kaye, Amazon is hardly alone. Other retailers are jumping on the dynamic pricing bandwagon too.
That could be a good thing. By analyzing competitor pricing data on an ongoing basis and using it to adjust their own prices, retailers can, in theory, optimize sales. And, as Kaye points out, dynamic pricing can be a tool for fighting showrooming.
But dynamic pricing isn't without risks. Here are five things retailers should consider when evaluating whether to employ it, and how much to employ it.

1. Customer perception

Many consumers aren't aware of the fact that retailers alter prices on a regular basis, and did so even before the advent of online retail, but as it becomes more noticeable thanks to the web, retailers must consider the perception issues it raises.
Put simply, a customer who observes that a product can become cheaper or more expensive within minutes may not be thrilled at the prospect that they could end up paying more for a product based on little more than, say, the time of day.
Particularly worrisome is the possibility that some users will notice dynamic pricing, but won't quite understand what's going on, resulting in a reduction of trust.

2. Data accuracy

Dynamic pricing depends on data, and when pricing is being changed on the order of hours or even minutes, ensuring that the data driving pricing decisions is accurate is critical. While there's a growing ecosystem of data providers and the techniques by which data is collected and filtered are sure to improve, retailers shouldn't assume that bad data won't make it into their systems.

3. Algorithm mishaps

Wall Street and the phenomenon of flash crashes reminds us that algorithms are far from perfect and can produce costly errors. As retailers embrace dynamic pricing models which are of course based on algorithms, thought should be given to how mishaps can be minimized and what policies will govern when a mishap results in a big mistake (eg. customers being able to purchase a product at a ridiculously low price).

4. Altered customer behavior

As the existence of dynamic pricing becomes more evident to consumers, retailers will need to grapple with the possibility that it could impact customer behavior.
On one hand, dynamic pricing clearly has the potential to encourage sales, but is it possible that in some instances it could it impede sales? If customers come to believe that the price of a product might go down in the very near future, and perhaps even on the same day, it's not unfathomable that some of them would decide to hold off on a purchase.
And as every retailer knows, a delayed purchase is much more likely to become a purchase that never happens, or happens somewhere else.

5. Overall experience

While price is an important factor in purchasing decisions and is often the most important factor, retailers should remember that their long-term success will likely depend on their ability to offer much more than that.
Customer service, selection, shipping, return policies and loyalty schemes can also help drive sales, even when a retailer can't offer the lowest price. These things are often crucial to fostering the brand positioning and customer loyalty retailers covet, so embracing dynamic pricing without addressing overall customer experience is short-sighted.



Many thanks go to both Neil Lancastle for writing the script and Sophie Bédard for designing the comic!
You can find out more about Neil here and follow his blog here.
Sophie Bédard joined our movement from Montreal, Quebec. You can see her blog here.
If you like her comic you can show your appreciation by donating to her using here

The above comes from the following links

International Student Initiative for Pluralism in Economics

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